There is a lot of information being shared – some true and some misleading – related to Coronavirus/COVID-19. To help understand a few of the key questions we’ve received related to eye care, EyeMed consulted with our medical directors, Dr. John Lahr, O.D. and Dr. Joe Wende, O.D.

IS COVID-19 TRANSMITTED THROUGH THE EYES?

While there is no agreed-upon evidence that indicates COVID-19 is transmitted directly through the eyes, it is possible. And limiting eye exposure can help. Here’s why: 

  • When a sick person coughs, sneezes, or talks, virus particles can spray from their mouth into another person’s face. You’re most likely to inhale these droplets through your mouth or nose, but it is possible for them to enter through your eyes and then into your nasal passage
  • People who have coronavirus can also spread the virus through their tears. Touching tears or a surface where tears have landed can be another portal to infection
  • Last, you can also become infected by touching something that has the virus on it – like a table or doorknob – and then touching your eyes

Proper eye health and use of proper hygiene are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to aid in protection.

DO GLASSES PROTECT AGAINST COVID-19?

Wearing glasses may add a layer of protection. Corrective lenses or sunglasses can shield your eyes from infected respiratory droplets. But they don’t provide 100% security. The virus can still reach your eyes from the exposed sides, tops and bottoms of your glasses. If you’re caring for a sick patient or potentially exposed person, safety goggles may offer a stronger defense.

IS IT SAFE TO WEAR CONTACT LENSES?

Contact lens wearers touch their eyes more than the average person – increasing the risk of their eyes being a potential portal for diseases. One option is to consider wearing glasses more often, especially if you tend to touch your eyes frequently when your contacts are in. Substituting glasses for contact lenses can also decrease irritation and force you to pause before touching your eyes.

If you wish to continue wearing contact lenses, it’s critical that you follow proper hygiene and care for your contact lenses as prescribed by your eye care professional. NOTE: You should discontinue wearing contact lenses if you’re sick irrespective of the type of illness.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP PROTECT YOUR EYES WHILE WEARING CONTACT LENSES?

Here are the general guidelines for handling your contacts using proper hygiene:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or longer and dry them with a lint-free towel before handling your contacts. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Avoid touching your face, including your eyes, nose and mouth, with unwashed hands.
  • Follow your eye care professional's schedule for wearing and replacing your contacts.
WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT WHEN I RETURN TO MY EYE DOCTOR?

Every state may have different variations of requirements based on state and local mandates and guidelines. You should expect that your eye doctor will be taking extra precautions to meet social distancing, safety and sanitation protocols. See “WHAT NEW SAFETY AND SANITATION PROTOCOLS SHOULD I EXPECT AT MY EYE DOCTOR’S OFFICE?” In addition, your appointment may take longer than prior appointments.

EyeMed strongly encourages you to schedule an appointment in advance with your eye doctor for routine services such as your annual eye exam. Prior to COVID-19, many providers reserved a portion of exam times for “walk-in” customers. With new safety and sanitation and protocols, we anticipate most providers will see patients by appointment only. You can easily find provider contact information or locate a new provider by visiting the Provider Locator.

WHAT IF I AM A HIGH-RISK PATIENT?

We understand what a challenge this may be for you and we’re here to help. If you have any questions, our Customer Care Center is available at 1.866.939.3633 (or your group-specific number on your ID card) to assist you.

Many eye doctor offices are planning to reserve appointment times for high-risk patients. If you prefer to stay at home and practice safe social distancing, you have online, in-network options available to purchase glasses and contact lenses. The ability to receive care—either at an office or via online, in-network providers—will vary depending on whether you may currently leave your home, have a valid prescription, or whether you plan to purchase either glasses or contacts. Our Member FAQs provide more detailed information. Please review “WHAT IF I’M HIGH-RISK OR SICK?” located in our Member FAQs.

WILL I NEED TO WEAR A MASK? WILL THEY PROVIDE ONE FOR ME?

Many state mandates or local orders will require patients to wear a mask to receive services. EyeMed aligns with the American Optometric Association’s statement that “All patients and companions in the building must wear cloth or disposable masks at all times.” We will not penalize providers for refusing to provide care to members who do not comply with this. To understand your eye doctor offices specific requirements, we highly recommend contacting their office prior to your appointment. Visit the Provider Locator to easily find provider contact information.

WHAT NEW SAFETY AND SANITATION PROTOCOLS SHOULD I EXPECT AT MY EYE DOCTOR’S OFFICE?

EyeMed has compiled and shared with providers guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the American Optometric Association (AOA) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) on how they can maintain social distancing, increase cleaning and otherwise ensure the health and safety of members for eye care services. Members can expect to be asked to wear masks during eye exams, attend their appointments alone except when a caregiver is needed, wait in their vehicles until their appointment times and have new procedures related to eyewear shopping. From your provider, you should expect that they will take extra precautions to sanitize equipment used during your exam, as well as sample frames and equipment used to try on glasses.

HOW WILL MY EYE DOCTOR ASSURE SOCIAL DISTANCING GUIDELINES ARE FOLLOWED?

Social distancing guidelines may vary at different offices for a variety of reasons such as state and local mandates or guidelines. Many offices will only allow a specific number of patients (and caregivers) in the office and/or dispensary at one time. In addition, members may be asked to attend their appointments alone except when a caregiver is needed and wait in their vehicles until their appointment times.

“Coronavirus Eye Safety.” American Academy of Ophthalmology. 3 March 2020. Web.


“Contact Lens Wear during COVID-19” American Optometric Association. March 2020. Web.


“Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. March 2020. Web.